Note by Conor McNicholas on opposition
to the taking of drugs in principle
This further submission is intended to cover
a question posed to me by Mr David Winnick that I realised, having
read the transcript, I failed to fully answer.
Mr Winnick made the point that he was against
people taking drugs in principle, this is my response.
I fully understand your position of being against
drug taking in principlemany people are and it's a perfectly
valid position to take. Sometimes it is indeed the role of government
to take moral positions on behalf of the general citizens.
However, if we are to take a moral position
then we must be prepared to live with the consequences of that
moral position. In the case of drug lawa system clearly
based on morality and socially accepted behaviour rather than
on personal or social harmthe moral position we have taken
as a society has resulted in immense social harm, the criminalisation
of large numbers of young people, deaths as a result of lack of
information and support, alienation of many young people from
authority, and contributed, I believe, to a spiral of social depravation,
particularly in inner cities.
I believe government makes effective moral decisions
when they are broad and flexible. We consider gambling a vice
and many individuals have horror stories of what gambling has
done to their lives, but we do not make it illegal and leave it
to a criminal underworld to controlwe accept the reality
of its place in society and take it into a legal framework where
we can protect people from any rare adverse affects and give them
support should there be trouble. However, many people simply do
not wish to gamble because they just don't like the thought of
it. (I am one of them!)
We make a moral judgement in society that we
believe young people should have sex only after they become 16
years old. We know sex is a potentially dangerous thing for young
people (witness the huge rise in sexually transmitted diseases)
but we recognise that it happens and rather than try and prohibit
it we encourage young people to talk about it, encourage them
to practice safe sex and try and provide as must support as possible.
That said, many people choose to wait until much later in life
to have sex because they feel that is appropriate to them.
So I believe it is with drugs. I believe there
can be safe recreational drug use as long as there is education,
openness and support where it is needed. I believe that taking
supply out of the hands of criminals and putting it within a strong
legal framework can only benefit us all. I also believe that were
this to happen we would see almost no rise in drug use generally.
Those who currently have an inkling that they may want to take
drugs have no problem finding them. The vast majority of people
don't take drugs because they just don't want to. Bringing them
within a legal framework isn't going to make them want to try.
They are quite possibly against drug taking in principle, which
is an entirely valid position to hold. But when drugs are taken
within a legal framework people have the flexibility to make their
own, personal, moral decisions, and I believe we should be trusting
them to do just that.
6 December 2001